Oil and gas majors are at present working at a hectic pace on both exploration and production, as regional rig utilisation rates reflect: over 90 per cent in the Middle East, and almost 100 per cent in the Far East and India.

The regional rig refurbishment sector is expectedly firing on all cylinders, with key players reporting very good business, as they work at a hectic pace to keep the momentum going.

What is happening to the Kurilskaya is a case in point.

Claimed to be the world's largest jack-up rig in terms of volume, the Kurilskaya is in Dubai's Port Rashid for refurbishment.

Built in 1993 at Vyborg, Russia, the rig is co-owned by Far East Marine Co, and is on long-term charter to Momentum Hortash.

"The rig had been working off Vietnam and had since been warm stacked," said Jim Larsen, managing director, Momentum Engineering. "She is now due to join her sister-rigs Ekabi and Sakhalinskaya around mid-January for operations in the Northern Gulf."

Global player Goltens has been awarded the main repair contract for the Kurilskaya, with the company's Dubai branch having undertaken the job to restore the rig back to class, and other associated operations.

"This entails the refurbishment of the power generation and jacking systems, overhaul of the drilling package and some accommodation works," said Ian Anderson, director - business development for oil & gas, Goltens Middle East, based at its regional headquarters in Dubai Ship Docking Yard at Al Jadaf.

He said the company had just completed extensive works on Swire Expro Rig ESP-1, which departed Port Rashid last week, so the timing had been perfect.

In addition to the company maintaining a large Russian-speaking Polish workforce of specialist mechanics, it has a Russian project manager in place dedicated to this project.

Ole Hartvik Larsen, technical director at Goltens Co Ltd, observed that rig owners also find it convenient to berth at Port Rashid for upgrade and repair works, owing to there being both more space and draft depth here, as well as the added flexibility afforded in being able to shop around among quality service providers for the most competitive rates.

Anderson, meanwhile, added that with the oil production majors today enjoying a reliably consistent cash flow, business for the rig refurbishment industry has been booming.

With the demand for rigs burgeoning, rates have also risen: "Day rates at present are between $65,000-$70,000 for 300-feet jack-ups, for new fixed contracts," he noted.

"Consistent with our group policy, we ourselves have consciously been widening our focus to include the O&G sector especially here and in the Far East and India, and are getting as much of the business as we can handle - at any given time, we have over 220 ongoing jobs in the shipping and offshore sectors out of our Dubai base," he said.